Since the release of the first trailer, Cocaine Bear has been on the tips of everyone’s tongue, whether because of skepticism or anticipation. It is an adventurous and ambitious project for director Elizabeth Banks. Luckily, she pulls it off with flair and panache.
Banks is joined on this project by a talented and fantastic cast including Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), Keri Russell (Antlers), Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Cedar Rapids), Brooklynn Prince (The Turning), Christian Convery (Venom ), Margo Martindale (The Hollars), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Untraceable), and Kristofer Hivju (The Thing).
The film is inspired by a true story in which a 175-pound American black bear opened and ate nearly 40 plastic containers full of cocaine and died. However, in the film, the bear goes on a drug-fueled rampage terrorizing a mother and her child, a park ranger and her love interest, and complicating matters for a detective, a drug kingpin, and his minions.
There are few black comedy/horror films that really hit the nail on the head, balancing just enough humor with the plot. In order to strike the right balance between the whacky absurd storyline, Cocaine Bear needed to ramp up the humor. While it doesn’t do this using clever dialogue and wit, it achieves equal levels of absurdity using flailing and flying limbs, an entertaining group of expendable characters, and buckets full of red dye #5.
When it comes to slasher and horror movies packed with gore, it is easy to overdo the blood spatter without doing anything interesting. Cocaine Bear manages to avoid that by using some creative theatrics. Watch out for the ambulance scene in particular, which offers some imaginative physics and new ways of using prosthetics.
The cast is amazing and dedicated to the project. Lines are delivered earnestly despite the hilarity and ridiculousness of the situation. Everyone performs exceptionally well. No stranger to comedy, Kristofer Hivju is a wonderful surprise. Most people know him as Tormund Giantsbane from Game of Thrones, with his signature smile, clever one-liners, and beard. In Cocaine Bear, the beard and charisma are back. His character (Olaf/Kristofer) is a delightfully bright contrast against the drugged-out bear.
Ray Liotta, in his final cinematic role, does a stellar job as drug kingpin Syd. Kerry Russell also does a wonderful job as the figurative mama bear, trying her best to rescue her daughter from the clutches of an actual bear. The banter and chemistry between Ehrenreich’s Eddie and Jackson Jr.’s Daveed are entertaining to watch.
It’s not going to change anyone’s life or add meaning and depth to the human narrative, but it is definitely a fun and wild ride. If the trailer was appealing, the movie will not disappoint. It deserves to be experienced in a theater with friends.